I. SOLVING THE PROBLEMS
OF THE WORLD
To change your world, change yourself.
To help this world be a better place must certainly be every thinking human’s desire. Our planet is
faced with innumerable problems, physical and spiritual; the attempts of our leaders to solve them seem
neither wholly pathetic nor wholly laudable. They are doing the best they can; even the apparent
exceptions to this rule act positively, given the definitions of reality to which they ascribe. But, as
courageous as the noble attempts to solve Earth’s problems have always been, and as successful as
some of the solutions have proved to be in some limited areas of concern, still the over-all depth, breadth
and intensity of the difficulties facing the world have only increased over the centuries until the existence
of the biosphere and of humanity itself is today swinging in the balance.
It was disastrous for the Carthaginians when the Romans burned Carthage to the ground; it was
certainly unfortunate for the Israelites when Rome razed Jerusalem and sent her people into captivity; it
was devastating to the Native Americans when the Europeans moved westward; but today we seem
determined to destroy the entire world.
It was tragic when the Sahara swallowed the fertile fields of Africa due to human incompetence,
but today we lose a football size field of rain forest every second; every year, an area of rain forest the size
of Pennsylvania is burned and converted to pasture, losing forever not only the wondrous potential
pharmaceuticals growing there in their natural state but simultaneously cutting the throat of the largest
oxygen- producing organism in the world.
We have all enjoyed the benefits of aerosols and cars and air conditioners, but the ozone
deteriorates. It seems that soon being outside anywhere at any time of day will be deadly.
It was a great accomplishment when our miracle drugs dramatically reduced infant deaths, but
today we have well over three hundred million people eeking out lives of barest subsistence without
meeting the needs of minimal nutrition. Three hundred million of our fellow humans are malnourished or
starving today. What did you have for dinner?
Any solution designed to solve any of these problems or the myriad of others facing humanity is
certainly good and should be encouraged. But it is not now and will never be sufficient to address the
problems of the human condition one at a time, or even in groups of related problems at one time. We can
link acid rain, ozone depletion, the ruining of our rivers, lakes and seas with excesses in our technologies,
but the basic issue will remain untouched by any such approach. The reason for this is simple. We can
attempt to solve a vast number of problems, but the solutions will always cause more problems as long as
we do not know the result of our actions. With limited minds, obstacles will continue to mutate and evolve
as do bacteria in response to our latest miracle drug. A host of new and worse difficulties will continue to
arise until the day we change the fundamental error of our thinking.
There is a field next to this house where I’m writing these words. A year ago it was a pasture where
a dozen horses grazed. Today it holds thirty houses; another fifteen are scheduled for completion within
the next six months. From the standpoint of the silent field, this must feel exactly like a cancerous growth.
What utility do these houses have in relation to the land? Where once there was a mutual harmony of
organic life, now there is concrete, asphalt, chaos, death. And yet the new residents living here are
grateful for this relatively cheap housing: for many of these young families, this is their first escape from
apartments into the grand experiment of private ownership. And in another thirty years, this will doubtless
be a quiet, even a sedate neighborhood, with tall, stately oaks and maples lining the streets.
I remember climbing up a huge old stump -- twice as high as I was tall, four times as wide as it was
high -- down the hill from the house where I grew up in. It was in the middle of a forty acre tract
which we called, “The Swamp.” This ground was not particularly swampy, at least not much more than
anything of Seattle, but calling it The Swamp added a certain dark mystery to young children. Fifty years
Solving the Problems of the World
before I entered The Swamp in awe and wonder, there was a magnificent stand of Western red cedar and
Douglas fir there. A hundred years before that, the evergreens were so thick and tall all over Western
Washington that anyone magically transported there from today would think they had wandered into the
most wonderful park on the Earth. What a tragedy from the perspective of the Native Americans! But our
small tragedy when The Swamp was razed and turned into the sterile asphalt of a parking lot and the
plastic and steel of a shopping mall was no less tangible and painful for our childish sensibilities. And yet
the close proximity of the nascent stores was viewed as a Godsend by several senior citizens of our
neighborhood.
I remember looking for an ancestral home with my family when I was nine. We could not find it -- it
was gone, a memory now only, replaced by one more freeway off-ramp. This in the middle of a wheat field! A serious loss, surely -- but those who use the freeway every day to hurry home to their families might disagree.
What exactly is a problem? A great evil from one perspective may prove a blessing from another.
But even if we can find some problems that everyone can agree are definitely problems, it does not follow
that everyone will agree on the solutions. And even if everyone everywhere were to agree on the problems
and the solutions, there is no guarantee that the solutions would work. Even if everyone everywhere
agreed beyond the slightest doubt that the Sun circled the Earth, our planet and our neighbor star would
not be likely to deviate from their orbits. Reality is not democratic! Regardless of how much we would like
everyone to believe in our cherished dream worlds, it doesn’t make them real for anyone other than our
own selves.
Don’t assume I am implying that it is wrong to attempt to solve any and all problems. Everything
that can be done should certainly be done. What I am saying is that our solutions have never worked well
because we as a species have never addressed the one fundamental problem that is causing all the
others. How do we transform our actions so that they have only life-supporting effects?
Until this basic issue is addressed, it will never be possible to solve the myriad difficulties of the
human condition. How can this be done?
ONE IDEAL PERSON
If we look into diversity, we see only diversity. When we look outward through our eyes, we see an
extremely complex and variegated world. Trying to change this outer world is difficult or impossible by
addressing any situation, one at a time. That is why corporations succeed -- a hundred individuals can do
a great deal more than one alone. Even if that one is far more efficient and talented than any other of the
hundred, it is physically impossible for any one person to do a hundred tasks at once.
Thus are hierarchies structured; thus are civilizations created.
The individual employee may have little or no understanding of how his or her part is contributing
to the whole; the private citizen may lack any comprehension of the nature or orderliness of his or her
society, but this does not inhibit the effectiveness of the whole. How does an organization function
smoothly, be it a cow, a company or a country? Each member of the hierarchical structure of the
organization must function well. The health of the organization is determined by the health of its individual
members. This is a universal law, be our conversation about organs and their constituent cells or
civilizations and their constituent citizens. Who can save a heart if its cells are dying? Who can save a
country if its citizens are degenerating?
This may all appear much too simplistic, much too obvious, and yet wholly impossible to change.
“Of course,” you may say, “your point is clear. If we want to solve the world’s problems, we must solve the
problems of the individual. There is nothing novel there. Confucius in ancient China said much the same
thing. ‘When the father is a father and the son a son, when the brother is a brother and the sister a sister,
when the husband is a husband and the wife a wife, then the family is set in order. When the family is set
in order, the village is set in order. When the village is set in order, the nation is set in order. When the
nation is set in order, the world is set in order.’ This is all too obvious. If I am healthy in my body, my mind
and my spirit, then, you imply, my society will be healthy. If I don’t contribute to the world’s problems, then
the world’s problems will cease. But what you offer is just too simplistic. Even if I act perfectly, what of my
brother George? Or my husband Sam? What about my kids? Or Fred down the street? Or the big corporations?
Or the banks and savings and loans? Or the military-industrial complex? Or terrorists? Or whoever
else happens to be on my ‘bad’ list at the moment? They’ll still be damaging the world, just as before. Of
what value, then, your solution? It is impossible to apply this thinking globally.”
Indeed, I must agree with you. The thought of changing everyone on the planet to become ideal, a
person who does nothing to damage either himself/herself or the world in any way, even the slightest, is a
concept that sounds too difficult to achieve in any reasonable amount of time. Even identifying which of
our daily actions are in fact damaging to ourselves or others is a matter for limitless controversy. The
simplest choice presented to each of us at most grocery store check-out counters makes the insoluble
riddles of antiquity seem like child’s play. “Paper or plastic,” the clerk asks us sweetly. What do we reply?
Kill a tree or use a non-renewable, non-biodegradable resource? Which do you choose? Does it matter
to yourself or to your world? Is it even worth considering, or is it a momentary and essentially pointless
diversion?
The root difficulty with the typical waking state of consciousness is that it is impossible to know
anything with certainty. It is not now nor will it ever be possible to know all the effects of an action -- of any
action, even the most basic. So why not live a life of compromise? Everyone sacrifices integrity on the
altar of convenience. Why be any different?
This is the issue that has led many of our philosophers to conclude that there is no Absolute
standard of morality or action. This dilemma has caused many others never to question but to let other
“authority” figures dictate their actions and beliefs. Without an Absolute standard, such leaders may or
may not have anything worthwhile to say; but many of them have at least demonstrated a certain skill in
convincing others to listen to them!
It may seem impossible to change everyone in the world. Fortunately, that is not your
responsibility. It is not your responsibility to change your countrymen, not your neighbors, not your friends,
not even your own family. You have the responsibility to change just one person in the entire Universe!
Do you know who this all-important person is? Do you know who has created and maintains your private
Universe? The good news and the terrible news is exactly the same -- it is you. The one controller of your
life and fate is you, no one other than you. You have made it exactly as you willed. Perhaps your choices
were unconscious until today, perhaps you did not know any better before. But those days are over now.
Since you have done it, you can do it over in any way you choose.
There may be others working to help everyone else change, but that need not be your concern.
You don’t have to see all the plan; you don’t have to understand its whole operation. You don’t even have
to know exactly how your part fits into the whole. It isn’t necessary! All you have to do is live your own part
perfectly and your world will transform around you. That is guaranteed, absolutely guaranteed. If the light
within you is not dark, the shadows will fly from your world.
How impossible a task, saving the world. How possible a task, saving yourself. Cleanse your own
heart and the world’s heart will be cleansed.
The waking state perception of the Universe is completely reversed, upside-down. In the waking
state, we commonly think that our effect is greater when we act outwardly; we think that our actions are
stronger than our words and our words are stronger than our thoughts. Therefore, for example, we do not
speak our resentment but hold it inside, festering, until it erupts in attacks far greater than the original
action we did not take, or until it kills us. This way of living is backwards, it is destructive, it cures nothing
and complicates everything.
One human’s thoughts can change a world. To be healed, the world does need one Ideal Person.
This person has already been born, this person has a name and a personal history. The birthdate of this
person is yours, the personal history is yours, this person’s name is yours. This Ideal Person is you.
We affect more than we can possibly know. With every mood, every thought, every word, every
gesture, we change our lives and our Universe.
_________________________
I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey, but then I turned myself around!!